Logan • There was just a hint of nostalgia in Stew Morrill’s voice as he reflected on the game that was.
His Aggies had just wrestled for a 57-50 win over visiting Colorado State that had featured players flying after rebounds, gritty physical defense, and more than a few fouls in a low scoring match.
Just like the old days.
“It was like the rules hadn’t changed,” the Utah State coach said. “It was a good old-fashioned brawl out there. That’s what it is sometimes when you play [Larry Eustachy’s] teams.”
Utah State managed to come away with another home conference win, suppressing the Rams’ offense and taking advantage of the younger team’s mistakes. Morrill, who once coached Colorado State himself, beat his old school for the first time since succeeding Eustachy, now the Rams’ coach.
On defense, the Aggies stayed in front of Colorado State, holding them to only 36.2 percent shooting from the floor. Spencer Butterfield scored 14 second-half points and Jarred Shaw threw down in the post for 17 as Utah State bounced back from one of its most disappointing road losses to date.
“This is what we have to do to have a chance in the Mountain West,” Morrill said. “We’ve got to compete at a high level, we’ve got to be physical, we’ve got to do everything we can do to give you a chance to win.”
Coming off a rough defeat at Nevada, the Aggies first showed signs of a continued shooting funk. The team scored only three field goals through the first 13-and-a-half minutes of play.
They heated up behind the arc, shooting five 3-pointers to take a lead, then going on a 9-3 run to close out the half. Shaw scored the last seven points before the break.
Utah State came out of the locker room just as hot, as Butterfield hit a 3-pointer on the first possession. The senior guard would go 4-for-5 from deep in the second half, including a momentum-seizing four-point play. He finished with 17 points in the game.
He also got help from fellow senior Preston Medlin, whose second-half penetration helped open up pick-and-rolls and threes.
Medlin had 12 points with a team-leading eight assists.
“He was the player of the game in my mind, the way he was penetrating and finding people,” Butterfield said. “He was finding people in the corner, he was finding Jarred down low. He did just a great job tonight.”
The biggest surprise might have been how Utah State matched Colorado State’s defensive tenacity. The Aggies have struggled with keeping opponents in check in recent weeks, but only J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano were able to score with any consistency, and most of those points came on long 3-pointers, second-chance opportunities or spinning post moves.
Aside from the Rams’ two leading scorers, the rest of the team only managed nine points. Colorado State also turned the ball over 14 times, leading to 16 Aggie points. Utah State also lured the Rams into a number of offensive fouls, frustrating an animated Eustachy on the sideline.
Morrill was pleased, but also forward-thinking.
“Their percentages were down, and we did a pretty good job,” he said. We’ve got to do it night after night - that’s what it’s going to take.”
Utah State 57, Colorado State 50
COLORADO ST. (11-7)
Santo 0-1 0-0 0, Avila 8-14 4-6 21, Bejarano 7-18 2-3 20, Octeus 0-2 0-1 0, De Ciman 1-5 3-6 5, Holt 1-2 2-4 4, Hurst 0-3 0-0 0, Cohn 0-2 0-0 0.
Totals 17-47 11-20 50.
UTAH ST. (12-4)
Butterfield 5-9 2-3 17, K. Davis 1-2 0-0 2, Shaw 7-13 3-5 17, M. Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Medlin 3-8 3-4 12, Berger 1-5 0-0 3, Moore 1-6 0-0 3, Roland 1-4 0-0 3, Stone 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 19-48 8-12 57.
Halftime—Utah St. 27-22. 3-Point Goals—Colorado St. 5-19 (Bejarano 4-9, Avila 1-3, Hurst 0-1, Cohn 0-1, Octeus 0-2, De Ciman 0-3), Utah St. 11-21 (Butterfield 5-7, Medlin 3-6, Moore 1-1, Roland 1-3, Berger 1-3, Shaw 0-1). Fouled Out—K. Davis, Holt. Rebounds—Colorado St. 37 (Avila, Bejarano 8), Utah St. 31 (Shaw 10). Assists—Colorado St. 11 (Avila, Bejarano 3), Utah St. 17 (Medlin 8). Total Fouls—Colorado St. 18, Utah St. 18. A—9,766.